“Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.” Matthew 18:5
“And, the first Camp Hall of Fame Award goes to Pastor January!”
I had survived my first church camp experience. I was also exhausted, was losing patience, and really wanted to get on the bus and head back home. Clearly, I could not be entered into any Hall of Fame.
“Pastor January, come accept your Dirty Sock Award.”
Sure, gladly! I’ll be honored. But wait a minute…you were not joking. Um, this really is a dirty sock!
But, is that all? Is it more than just a dirty sock?
This dirty sock could represent all the other dirty socks I picked up this week. Socks that were scattered in the rooms and halls. Socks that were worn by 13 7 to 9 year old girls. The ones left in bathrooms. The ones left by pools. This sock could represent all the dirty undergarments I picked up. The many trips back and forth for forgotten items, missing flip-flops, missing towels. It could represent all the “Oh no, I lost my water bottles.” The “Pastor January, I left my sunscreens.” The lack of sleep. The cold showers. The chaos that is kids camp.
And, well…it could just represent a dirty sock.
One that I realized was so important to me, that I went back to pull it from the trash.
This sock actually represents more than the sleepless nights, unfollowed directions, or misplaced water bottles. Instead, it will represent love, patience, and the joy of being completely intentional with my time.
This dirty sock represents the time I got to spend loving on kids that were not my own. Some I had never met before this week. Some I may never see again. Many who had never been to camp. Many more who had never spent more than a night away from home. This sock represents the fifth time I had to sing “Silent Night,” and “You Are My Sunshine.” The few nights I had to wake up to rub the head and back of a homesick child. The bloody noses I doctored. The tears I wiped away. The laps that held many kids that were bigger than me.
This sock represents loving the hurting, soothing the broken, and calming the scared. Putting my own needs aside just to be there for a child.
A sock that represents lessons on patience, and Lord, how I needed it. Patience when things didn’t go as planned. Patience to wait on a child for the tenth time, even when we are late…again! Patience when the same child has spilled her juice…again! Patience when 13 tired little girls get cranky, whiny, and mean.
This dirty sock represents putting down the phone and simply “being” for a while. It represents unplugging all my electronics, silencing my cell phone, and plugging in to being a kid again. Letting kids splash you at the pool even though you know your hair may turn green. Enlisting yourself as a partner in a water race, even though you don’t have a bathing suit on, simply so a child isn’t left out. Or paddling twenty times in circles around a small fishing lake in a paddle boat covered in blue dye with a child who wants to steer while you do all the paddling. It’s getting sprayed in the butt with a water bottle, being drenched with a bucket of ice cold water, and being completely OK with it. Because you know it makes these kids happy.
Because you know it makes God happy. Because you know that this “being,” the love, the patience shown to a child represents Him. The one who loves these children as you do.
It represents being there. With no agenda. With no inhibitions. Without checking phone messages, emails, or texts.
This sock represents the desire despite the sleepless nights, the cold showers, or spider bites, to do it all over again.
To wipe tears. To band-aid blisters. To walk back to the pool for the tenth time to locate a small pair of dirty socks.
It represents what I want to bring home to my own kids. The gift of love, patience, and time.
Without an agenda. Without inhibitions. Without the constant chime of a cell phone.
Getting dirty in the front yard. Wiping more tears. Getting sprayed in the butt with a water bottle. Taking time to be there. Present with them. Engaged with them. Focused on them. Loving them. All while I patiently pick their dirty socks up off the floor.
Loving every minute of it. Of these children, this time, and this gift God has given me.
Knowing that this gift is more than just a dirty sock.